Bram Stoker’s version of Dracula is one of the most timeless monsters in literature, and one of the first examples of a “classic vampire”—elegant, brooding, and with a thirst for human blood. But despite all the innocent women Dracula seduced and drained of blood, he can’t even hold the stub of a candle to his real-life namesake: Vlad III, or Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia (now Romania). Here’s why:
10 • Dracula Dipped His Bread in Buckets of Blood
The real-life Dracula might not have sucked blood out of his victims’ necks, but he still drank it in a different way: by dipping chunks of bread into buckets of blood drained from the people he killed.
The fifteenth century manuscript The Story of a Bloodthirsty Madman Called Dracula of Wallachia, by Michel Beheim, describes how Vlad III would invite a few guests to his mansion, provide them with a feast, and then have them immediately impaled right there at the dinner table. With the bodies still draped over the stakes, he would leisurely finish his own dinner and then dip his bread into the blood collecting below the bodies.
9 • He Avenged His Father By Murdering Hundreds
He didn’t just murder them—he had them all excruciatingly killed by slowly driving blunt stakes through their abdomens. See, Vlad III had spent much of his early life in a Turkish prison, and when he was released he discovered that his father had been betrayed by his people and buried alive by Hungarian troops.
He knew that many of the noblemen that had served under his father were involved in the betrayal; but since he didn’t know specifically which ones, he invited all of them—about five hundred in total—to a feast at his house. Once the feast was finished, Dracula’s soldiers rushed into the room and impaled every single nobleman present.
Dracula went on to use that tactic countless times. He would lure people to his house with a feast, and then kill them. Eventually people knew what it meant to be invited to one of Dracula’s feasts, but they showed up anyway—because if they refused, they’d be killed on the spot. That’s what some call a lose-lose situation.
8 • “Dracula” Means “Son of the Dragon”
The word Dracula wasn’t something that Bram Stoker made up for his book; Vlad III actually preferred to be called that. His father, Vlad II, was a member of a secret society known as the Order of the Dragon. He was so proud to be a member that he had his name changed to “Dracul,” Romanian for “Dragon.”
Vlad III also got involved in the Order as a child, which prompted him to change his own name to Dracula, or “Son of the Dragon.” (Although now it means something closer to “Son of the Devil”). Either way, it was a pretty frightening name at the time, especially since the guy had the reputation of, you know, killing everybody he met.
7 • He Had A Sense of Humor
Life for Dracula wasn’t all work, work, impale, work. Nope—according to most sources at the time, he thoroughly enjoyed all that impaling and skinning and boiling alive. In fact, you could even go so far as to say he had a sense of humor—at least, he was known to make some incredibly morbid jokes about his victims as they died.
For example, one account in the book In Search of Dracula describes how people would often twitch around “like frogs” as they died via impalement. Vlad III would watch and casually remark, “Oh, what great gracefulness they exhibit!”
Another time a visitor came to his house, only to find it filled with rotting corpses. Vlad asked him, “Do you mind the stink?” When the man said “Yes,” Vlad impaled him and hung him from the ceiling, where the smell wasn’t quite so bad.
6 • Impalement Was the Only Punishment
It’s easy to think of Dracula as a solitary madman, just running around killing people, but that’s not how it was. The man just so happened to be the Prince of Wallachia, and many of his “murders” were his own twisted form of law and order. The thing is, impalement was pretty much the only punishment—whether you stole a loaf of bread or committed murder.
Of course, there were exceptions. One account describes a gypsy who stole something while traveling through Dracula’s lands. The Prince had the man boiled, and then forced the other gypsies to eat him.